GCC GREAT Center to Offer No-Cost Training Through ACE Grant

Monday, June 24, 2013

** Interested applicants should contact Ralph Wright as soon as possible. Application deadline is August 1, 2013. Classes begin September 9. Call (203) 624 1493 x243.**

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an $11.8 million Accelerating Connections to Employment (ACE) grant will train people to work in health care, food service industries in Maryland, Georgia, Texas and Connecticut. The goal: to train people for careers in which they can immediately anticipate earning $14 to $22 an hour, and for which there is the possibility of career growth.

Over the next five years, GCC’s GREAT Center will offer more than 150 spots to individuals, at no cost, to participate in vocational training programs that will put them on a fast track to careers as patient care technicians or certified professional food and beverage servers. The program, which begins this fall, offers specialized training in each field and provides instruction in related academic areas, job placement support and long-term career navigation.

“It is a chance to get in on an exciting career track in areas where there are jobs now and anticipated job openings in the future,” said Vicki Bozzuto, GCC’s dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education.

Christine D. Reardon, manager of Strategic Development/Business Services for the Workforce Alliance, said that in a challenging job market and “with budget cuts at every level, to have an opportunity to partner and provide a program like this is really delightful. This is not only for people looking for work but also for people who are looking to move up.”

Students will choose from the Patient Care Technician training or the Certified Professional Food and Beverage Server training tracks. The Patient Care Technician track provides training for three different positions: an EKG technician, a certified nurse aide and a phlebotomy technician. The program offers intensive training, including classroom, laboratory and clinical work. All three certifications are required to then sit for the Patient Care Technician Certification national exam. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the need for patient care technicians will grow by 15 percent through 2020.

Erika Lynch, GCC’s Continuing Education coordinator, said the course is ideal for certified nurse assistants and people who have some health care training or experience who wish to add another level of certification to their resume. “What is exciting is that it makes someone working or interested in patient care that much more employable,” she said. “It opens up the option to work in a hospital setting.”

The Food and Beverage Server track includes top-notch server and customer service training, food service operations and sales and marketing. “These skills are applicable to work in restaurants, hotels, catering business, assisted living and continuing care facilities,” Lynch said. Participants will take part in class work and have lab time in local food establishments to gain the professionalism, polish and presence needed to be successful in the field. Upon completion of the course, students will sit for the National Restaurant Association Food Safety Certification Exam and the Alcohol Server Certification Exam.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association has not only embraced the program but is working with GCC on curriculum development so that students leave with just the training they need to land jobs in what Reardon calls a very lucrative field. “We have wait staff in high-end restaurants in the area who have worked in the field for 20 and 30 years precisely because it pays so well. These can be career jobs.” The restaurant industry added jobs at double the rate of the overall economy in 2012 and that is expected to continue through 2014. But the U.S. Department of Labor has reported that many people applying for “front of the house” positions often don’t have the skills to attain them. “This program offers those very skills,”  Bozzuto said.

Courses are team taught by industry experts, and  instructors of basic English or math, depending on the related course content. Students who may struggle with basic skills will receive assistance to can keep up with the coursework.

The ACE grant is a major funding source that is also sweeping study. Data will be collected during all stages of the process to determine the participants’ ability to secure a job, retain it and increase their earnings. By comparing the participants across geographic, demographic, occupational and experiential lines and studying the outcomes, the program is expected to yield important regional and national data on what makes a strong job training program. Bozzuto and Reardon agree that “This has major implications for future programs and funding across the country.”

Bozzuto and Reardon said both GCC and the Workforce Alliance are passionate about the outcome: providing the kind of excellent workforce training that leads to better paying, more fulfilling career-track jobs for people throughout the region.